A new website, Ask.fm, has perpetuated cyberbullying to disastrous results, contributing to numerous suicides. Ask.fm allows users to ask other users questions. Questions can range from, “What do you like to do on a rainy day?” to more abusive messages such as, “I have to no life. Fu*k my friends. You dont know who I am … I have no place being here.”
Most recently, negative and harmful comments were targeted at 14-year-old Floridian Hannah Smith. Some of the comments left on Hannah's wall, according to The Guardian, were: "cow," "fat slag,'" "ugly f*ck," and "self harming c*nt." One user told Smith she should, "Go die, evry1 wuld be happy." Another recommended, "Do us all a favour n kill ur self."
These types of messages and constant bullying ended in the worst possible scenario, suicide. Unfortunately, these messages are quite prevalent throughout the site. The owners need to take more preventative measures to combat cyberbullying.
Users have the ability to block anonymous questions, but the website should add a feature that allows users to pre-approve questions before the questions are posted. While this may be bothersome to filter through questions, users would have the ability to delete harmful content that may be considered hurtful. This feature could be disabled for those who might find it cumbersome. Users can report incidents of offensive content, but harsher methods need to be taken to reprimand the offender, such as blocking them temporarily or permanently.
The website includes a page about safety and the dangers of answering harmful content, but this page should be included right after the registration process. It is located at the bottom of the page, where individuals cannot see it. Resources should be made available of one is suffering from abuse and how to combat it, such as providing a link to BeatBullying.org, an anti-bullying website.
Ask.fm could develop a feature that scans content for harmful combination of words or phrases such as, “You should die,” or, “Go kill yourself.” Those posts that come up with those words should be deleted. While this may prove costly and people can find ways around it, at least some of the worst phrases will be eliminated. To provide funding for this, the website owners could use crowdsourcing to supplement the costs. Most individuals do not want to limit freedom of speech and multiple users enjoy the website, so they may be more inclined to donate.
Many have petitioned for the complete shutdown for the website, but this would limit freedom of speech and increase Internet censorship. This website spans across multiple countries, making it harder to implement this type of censorship in a broader, global scope. Censorship of the Internet does not bode well with individuals, if one remembers the reactions to SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP act).
Stricter provisions need to be made in regards to moderating Ask.FM and harsher punishments dealt to those who abuse the website. More conscious efforts need to be made to prevent more tragic suicides from happening.